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Why intelligence doesn’t lead to success

Due to the nature of our business I meet with many leaders from various organisations every week. It goes without saying, they are all extremely intelligent people: When it comes to board and management level, everyone is accomplished. Their reasons for meeting with us vary, but it often boils down to one thing: They want us to answer a burning question, “How do we become successful as an organisation”.

Makes sense right?

Balance equals success

My standard response to this is actually pretty simple. It doesn´t matter which sector you´re in, what your situation is or what your plans are for the future. Every organisation has two sides; the smart-side and the healthy-side and both must be utilised effectively in order to achieve success.

The smart-side of the organisation mostly concerns itself with tangible results: Measurable aspects, such as strategy, marketing, finance and tech. The healthy-side makes it possible for the smart side to function at their best, (the enablers of whatever they need). They are there to minimise internal politics, ensure confusion is avoided, keep morale high, boost productivity and keep attrition low.

I am yet to meet a leader who doesn’t agree with this. Every leader would love to have this scenario in their organisation, and is convinced that it would greatly accelerate the transformation of their company.

So you probably think that all the leaders I talk to get right down to work on improving both sides, but unfortunately that’s not the case..

Why most leaders are uncomfortable with fixing the healthy-side

Almost every leader and their team are used to being the brains; they can do it in their sleep, and are very experienced. So they find it much easier to find answers on the smart-side. Read all about it in their spreadsheets, they´ve got this!

The healthy-side is often where the issues lie, these people must overcome the following prejudices from their counterparts.

  • Quantifiability: however powerful it may be, the status and progress cannot be measured or traced back to revenue growth. As a result, the healthy-side is often experienced as too “fluffy”.
  • Longer term focus: everyone is familiar with the adrenaline you get from finishing a project or improving on a result. It’s quick feedback with a shot of dopamine on the side. On the healthy-side of the organisation this never happens; it takes time before you see results. Think more in years than months.
  • It is way out of their comfort zone: The healthy-side is based on emotion, and you’d be hard pressed to find a leader who has studied for that. 

So where does this leave most leaders? 95% of the focus goes to the smart-side and that’s a real shame. We are fully convinced that every company can profit more on the health-side than on the smart-side. The greatest superpower that a leader has are the people with whom they work: If you know how best to engage them, we promise you’ll wipe out the competition. 

Health over brains

Why? Because your competitor is in exactly the same situation. They are also highly intelligent, well educated and have their own team of rockstars around them. Through the democratisation of information, they too have access to the latest innovations and know exactly how the theory works. The advantages that can be gained on the smart-side are therefore marginal.

On the other hand, they also face the same problems on the healthy-side. They are plagued with political agendas, confusion and all the other nonsense that leads to an unhealthy organisation. And that’s why the potential on the healthy-side is enormous.

I dare wager that the first organisation to find a solution to become healthy will be the first to succeed.

Here’s how

Create a better balance between smart and health. 50/50 would be ideal, but 70/30 (smart/health) is more realistic. Focus 70% of the time on your daily ‘operational’ responsibilities, and 30% on improving the healthy side. We advise to follow this roadmap based on the theories of Patrick Lencioni

  • Ensure your leadership team is on point
    Every team has its own dysfunctional properties, and a leadership team is no different. After all, it is a composite group of individuals with different interests, goals, qualities and weaknesses. It’s only human that this does not immediately produce the desired dynamics.

The five dysfunctional properties are depicted on a pyramid, and as with the Maslov-pyramid they are laid out hierarchically. Without fundamental trust, it is impossible to solve the higher up dysfunctionalities. So, start by creating that trust, and work up from there.

  • Ensure that the leadership team is aligned on the six essential organisational questions
    1. Why do we exist?
    2. How do we behave?
    3. What do we do? 
    4. How will we succeed?
    5. What is most important right now? 
    6. Who must do what?

  • Communicate and act on these answers as a leadership team
    More often than you even think necessary. Now the leadership team is sufficiently aligned, it’s time to get the rest of the organisation onboard. Many leaders are mistaken when it comes to the influence they have on their people: The dysfunctional traits they perceive in their employees are often a reflection of their own flaws. You don’t become healthy by bringing it up once, at an annual event. The power of repetition is paramount.

  • Incorporate this communication in all processes and company meetings
    Think recruitment, progress, exit meetings and scrum events, etc.

I promise you the following: put yourself above the four prejudices and start improving the healthy-side and I bet you will be successful!


Written by:

Commercial Growth

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